This colourful match-three puzzle game presents players with the added dimension of managing a simulated village. Available for iOS devices, Mac OS X and PC, Heroes of Kalevala is both pleasant and attractive, offering over 140 hand-crafted puzzles.
Behind the game is the premise that an evil witch is truing to take over the land of Kalevala. With the help of mythical heroes, players must solve puzzles to acquire gold used to buy houses and other village necessities so that residents can inhabit the land.
The puzzle gameplay is straightforward and includes a few special touches making it a unique experience. Puzzle boards have irregular shapes which range from level to level. Using a match-three mechanic similar to Bejeweled or Puzzle Quest, players must turn the background of every tile to blue before the time runs out. Doing so will complete the level.
Cleared pieces are replaced by others that cascade down but because of the irregular shape of the board the pieces that fall don’t always come in the location you might expect.
Happiness is the key to your success. Depicted by green happy faces above their heads, every happy resident will earn players ten bonus gold at the end of a puzzle. Making them happy is simple enough and requires the purchase of items for your village, such as trees.
If there are not enough happiness-inducing items in your village, residents will walk around with red sad faces above their heads, meaning no extra gold can be earned from them during a puzzle.
The witch’s evil crow will gradually circles the puzzle board, acting as a timer and progressively eating away at bonus gems. If it reaches its starting point before you turn all of the tiles blue, you will have to restart.
Players can slow down the crow’s progress by momentarily stunning him, either by making a match with pieces that touch it or by using a bomb in its proximity. The game keeps tracks of how many levels players have failed, so it is often best to restart a level when you think that it won’t be cleared in time.
As you play Heroes of Kalevala, your village will move up in rank starting at bronze, followed by silver and gold. As you advance, you will unlock new items in the shop. These range from different types of trees and larger buildings, to happiness-inducing items like fountains or sundials, and jobs like gardener, carpenter and farmer.
While jobs are meant to increase your village’s capacity, there is little to do beyond giving job hats to villagers. Players will eventually unlock the Settler, who they can purchase to open the next village. Before start a new village, you can select an amount of gold you want to transfer over to give you a head start.
Puzzles are numbered according to your overall progress, and are not assigned to a specific village. You could conceivably play all 140 plus puzzles without leaving the first village.
Heroes are also progressively unlocked as you collect gold in each village. They are used in puzzles and appear as character pieces on the board. Match them to use a hero’s special ability, which clears extra pieces on the board and turns tiles blue. Before beginning a new puzzle you will have the option to chose which unlocked hero you wish to use.
As you advance through the game, additional puzzle components with special clearing conditions are introduced such as a locked tiles, ice tiles, stone tiles and tar tiles. Alternatively, using a bomb will also work to remove or break down some of these special tiles. Small bombs appear by making four-piece matches, while larger bombs come from matches with five pieces or more. Some bombs will appear on the board at the beginning of a puzzle.
The simulation aspect of Heroes of Kalevala could have been more deeply explored. As it stands, there is very little to manage beyond buying and placing items. Once there are enough trees per resident, your job is done, until you can buy more houses and trees. It would have been interesting to add more challenges in your village such as needing to water trees regularly or repair houses.
The presentation is quite nice with brightly coloured 2D graphics. Central to the game, the heroes are very well drawn and detailed, their appearance reminiscent of Greek gods. The puzzles are also neatly designed, with clean looking graphics and tiles that change according to the village you are in.
The village backgrounds are attractively-coloured and detailed though the residents look underwhelming as basic sprites which occasionally clip into their surroundings. The soundtrack that accompanies the game is orchestrated and pretty.
The touch-based control scheme in Heroes of Kalevala is generally good, though it could use a some tweaks. Unsure whether it is because the controls are too sensitive or that the tiles are too small, there were a few instances when I tapped the touch screen to select a tile and the software selected another. This became a problem when pressed for time, especially when this mis-selection led to an unplanned match, thus ruining planned sequences or timing and requiring a do-over.
After five and a half hours of game play, I have completed 70 levels, unlocked all four villages, including one which I have finished and gold-ranked, and unlocked nine out of ten heroes. The game contains no difficulty settings but starts out very easy and ramps up in difficulty as you progress. However, it becomes easy again about half way through once you unlock most of the assists. Players can continue playing the puzzles indefinitely after having completed the storyline.
As a puzzle game, Heroes of Kalevala is fun and original, though familiar in its mechanics. With its varied puzzle formats and contents, the game can easily be played for a few hours at a time or in short bursts with little redundancy.
However, the village component could have been much deeper. Without the need to tend to your village or manage villagers beyond settling them in, this feels like a wasted opportunity. However, the overall product is still enjoyable and a solid pickup for fans of the puzzle genre.
Editorial Note: The team at 10tons Ltd. provided Game Forward with a review build of Heroes of Kalevala for iPhone and iPod Touch. It is also available on iPad for $4.99 and for Windows PC and Mac OSX at a suggested price of $9.99
+ Fun and Varied Match-Three Puzzle Mechanic
+ Detailed Graphics, Supports Retina Display
+ Excellent Soundtrack
– Village Simulation Lacks Depth
– Controls can be Inaccurate, Too Sensitive